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Application of "open and obvious" defense to injured minor? Court analyzes, applies.

Tyler Gibson, a 16 year-old bowler, was hurt when he accidentally struck a metal frame above the bowling lane during his backswing.   His father sued VEI FRIENDLY, LLC, operator of Sterling Lanes in Macomb County.  The bowling alley argued that it owed no duty to remove or pad the overhead steel frame above the lanes because the danger of the structure was "open and obvious."  The irony of this defense was not lost on the Court of Appeals panel, given the owners' simultaneous claim that they had no reasonable notice of the danger of the structure.

Nevertheless, the Court recognized the open and obvious hazard defense and applied it to immunize the owners from a claim on behalf of the minor plaintiff.  The Court deemed the application of open and obvious to be a question of fact dependent upon the age of the child and the nature of the hazard--but then applied the defense as a matter of law to eliminate any duty running from the owners of the alley to the young man.  It distinguished this case from prior cases where the Courts have held that open and obvious should not apply to eliminate the duty to repair or warn of dangerous conditions that cause injury to children based primarily on young man's age: he was 16 when he suffered injury and the Court chose to apply the doctrine as though he were an adult.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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